So, my lovely gang of QueryTracker peeps and I agreed to start a blog chain.
I will concede that I did, indeed, agree to join the chain and to post on the topics at hand.
I did NOT anticipate the lengths those cheeky, sneaky things would go to to outshine me…
Not only did they post gorgeous, thoughtful posts on their own blogs (here, here, here, and here) on the topic of writing methods, but they stealthily rolled them out one after another while I was working a 26-hour shift. Leaving me now to catch up on reading them all and then try to hold my own in a hazy-headed post-call state. No fair, you stinkers!
Aspiring novelists are so durned competitive!
But I will show them all… I’ve headed straight for my beloved Caribou Coffee and with this large Hazelnut Latte at my side, I shall do my best to muddle through.
Despite my thread title, I am definitely much more method than madness when it comes to writing. I’m a big fan of thinking. When I sat down to write The Edge of Memory (which, by the way, came as much of a surprise to me as to anyone) I had already spent about a month of long commutes working out the plot and character details.
Before I wrote word one of my manuscript, I had already decided the major plot twists and story arc. I knew who all the characters were and what their motivations were for their behavior. And while these things did change both during the writing and editing processes, they didn’t change as much as you might have expected.
I researched the etymology of names for all my characters, and for the fictitious town (the other towns and cities I used are real cities). I researched details down to when major battles were fought in the Korean War, what the weather was like in 1951, and what major news events happened in the early eighties.
Here is the notes sheet I typed a couple of days before I started writing… my very first outline, I suppose.
Once I started writing, it was quick and chronological. I wrote, on average, a chapter a day. My chapters for TEoM average about 2300 words. On the days I had to work a 24+hour shift, I couldn’t write at all, but I usually made up for it by writing two chapters on a day that I was home.
I started the draft on October 18th, 2007. I finished the draft at around 95,000 unedited words on December 6.
I don’t hear voices or anything interesting like that. I just see the story unfolding on the back of my eyelids. Very much like a DVD. And when I don’t like something, I rewind it and play it again slightly differently. I make a lot of faces when I write, copying my characters expressions so I can describe them properly.
Whenever I got stuck, I researched some detail I needed more information about. When I couldn’t think of anything that needed researching, I designed fake book covers and compiled imaginary soundtracks. I cast actors to star in the imaginary movie based on my imaginary book. I immersed myself completely in my story until the draft was complete.
Naturally, along the way I panicked. Often. What in heck did I think I was doing? For keeping me (relatively) sane during that time, I owe huge debts of gratitude to my BFF Clara, and my first secret test readers (Ariel, Erica, and Stacey) to whom I mailed 3-chapter chunks as I finished them. Yes, the raw unedited original draft versions. And they all told me to keep going. I them more than I can ever say.
The bottom line is that writing is extremely personal. In every possible way. What works for me wouldn’t work for Elana. What works for Elana makes my head hurt when I think of trying that way. If you are driven to write, you will eventually find your way to what works for you.
- I find music both soothing and inspirational. I have a couple hundred songs that I listened to on random while I was writing The Edge of Memory; I chose them because they were appropriate for my story. I made a disk for my car, which put me right into story-planning mode.
- Writing a novel is an overwhelming concept. So don’t do that. Write a chapter. Or a page. They will accumulate faster than you thought possible. Like laundry.
- As much as it pains you, try not to edit until your story is down on the page. It is still easier to revise the roughest prose than it is to make yourself finish when you are wallowing over how much work your writing still needs.
- Find a cheering section. Be they family, friends, internet buddies, or supportive strangers. Make yourself accountable to them and let them support you.
- Once you’ve finished the draft, then look for the ruthless folks who will help you make your manuscript better.
- And, finally, if you ever agree to join a blog chain, make sure you read the fine print, so you don’t end up babbling at Caribou Coffee.
So, that’s my sleep-deprived addition to the discussion. Your next blog post will be brought to you by the letters M and L. As in, Mary Lindsey who is probably tapping her foot waiting for me to get my blog-chaining in gear.
Incidentally, if you’re a writer (or agent or editor or publishing peep of some sort) interested in joining a (very sneaky!) blog chain gang, we’d be delighted to have you. You can contact me, or any of the other bloggers to get started.